Sydney Morning Herald/Age correspondent Ruth Pollard’s report (10/9) on protests by West Bank Palestinians angry at increases in the cost of fuel essentially offered up a one-word explanation – Israel.
The sole expert she interviewed was the Palestinian academic and communist party member Ghassan Khatib who was formerly the senior spokesperson to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Khatib blamed the PA’s financial difficulties on Israel’s control over land, air and seaports and its tax collection on behalf of the PA for its excessive reliance on foreign aid as well as “the continued expansion of Israeli settlements onto Palestinian land”.
Remarkably, Pollard omitted any mention of PA “corruption” which has seen two decades of foreign aid squandered by elites and loyalists. A more informed journalist might also have included a reference to the fact that last July Israel unsuccessfully petitioned the IMF to lend the PA up to US $1billion in aid, for which Israel would act as guarantor.
Pollard also talked up the economic difficulties in Gaza, quoting from a UN report to claim that “half of the cultivable land and 85 per cent of fishery resources” in the Strip are “inaccessible”. Someone should send Pollard a copy of the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that recently reported how at least 600 millionaires live in the Gaza Strip.
In contrast, the Australian‘s John Lyons noted the same day that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had “hit out at Hamas, his rival Palestinian faction, which controls the Gaza Strip, saying it had failed to contribute taxes”.
Where there’s a will
Writing in the Australian (11/9) Ian Wilcock bucked the trend amongst former Australian ambassadors to the Middle East, a number of whom have smugly scapegoated Israel for the lack of peace while habitually disregarding the rejectionist policies of and human rights abuses by Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority.
It would be a hard heart that could not feel sympathy for Palestinian national aspirations, if the objective is the establishment of a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel…that challenge is made even more daunting by the torrent of virulent anti-Semitism emanating from the Palestinian Authority and bodies it controls… it must have the courage to stop its poisonous, racist characterisations of Jews. To allow these obscenities to continue must further undermine the confidence of the only negotiating partner that could actually deliver a state for Palestinians – Israel. Not to take such action would confirm that the PA has joined with those (headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran) whose objective is to threaten, demonise, delegitimise, even obliterate Israel.
Wilcock, Ambassador to Israel from 1997-99, cited how racist outbreaks in Israel usually received widespread condemnation, noting that a 2010 statement from a group of rabbis which urged Jews not to rent houses to non-Jews was “forcefully rejected by the Israeli President, Prime Minister, other rabbis and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial foundation. If the PA would learn from these responses, it could only improve the atmosphere for negotiations.”